This article reports on the performance of an initiatory rite of the author's invention, undertaken as a practical experiment for thinking about certain recurrent features of ritual action and, specifically, of (male) initiation. The initiatory ritual in question, The Red and the Black, was designed to consist essentially if not solely in a particular pattern of interaction: it belongs to no recognizable cultural tradition, it involves almost no explicit symbolism, its underlying beliefs are overtly preposterous, its scenic qualities are minimal, and little if any social function can be attributed to it. One of the goals of this exercise was thus to explore and substantiate a particular relational approach to the analysis of ritual performance in which the latter is envisaged as the enactment of special relationships. Framing, simulation, secrecy, imposed suffering, symbolism, ceremonial efficacy, ritual condensation and the complex interplay of in-group and out-group perspectives, are among the issues that are illustrated and discussed.
Ritual; Initiation; Interaction; Secrecy; Ritual Efficacy